Adventist educator installed amidst celebration at GC-owned school BY MARK A. KELLNER, News Editor
Dr. Leslie N. Pollard, 55, an alumnus of church-owned Oakwood University with strong ties to the school, was formally installed as the eleventh president of the Huntsville, Alabama-based institution on October 16, 2011, in a nearly three-hour celebration. Pollard began his service in January 2011, but the school’s schedule precluded a formal installation until now. Oakwood, established at the urging of church co-founder Ellen G. White in 1896, enters its 115th school year with a record-breaking enrollment of 2,006 students. During the ceremony, the university was praised as one of America’s leading Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs, as such schools are known. “I am a living witness that God, like a heavenly HBCU, is no respecter of persons. We embrace our mission to the last, the least and the lost,” Pollard said in response to the many tributes he received. “Under God’s providence, the future is ours.”
That future began with a parade of tributes and good wishes, including videotaped remarks from
Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, General Conference president, who said he and his wife Nancy regretted they were unable to attend in person. Oakwood is an institution of the General Conference. “You’re commissioned to see that Oakwood University remains responsible to local, national and global needs, while remaining true to the core values of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” Wilson said. “I believe this is your truest challenge: to ensure that each student that attends Oakwood University stands firm with God and his people through the climactic events of the coming days.” Pastor Dan Jackson, North American Division president, offered the prayers and support of the “1.1 million Seventh-day Adventists” in the territory. “I only represent the 185,000 people in the city of Huntsville!” Mayor Tommy Battle, who followed Jackson, said, “but I also want to congratulate Dr. Pollard as he continues to write ‘pages of history’” for the school. The mayor added, “As you write those pages of history, be bold. Write bold pages of history that talk about achievement, inclusiveness and progress.” Andrew Hugine, Jr., president of Alabama A&M University, another HBCU in Huntsville, said, “We know that you were chosen by God to lead Oakwood University at this time. … From the eleventh president of Alabama A&M University to the eleventh president of Oakwood University, ‘Welcome!’” Keynote speaker Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund, affirmed both Pollard’s selection and the role of HBCUs in American society. “As you already know, Dr. Pollard is the right man at the right time, for Oakwood, for our country and for the community of HBCUs,” Lomax said. “We still need HBCUs because they continue to outperform the rest of higher education in providing college degrees to African Americans.” Responding later, and reading his remarks from an Apple, Inc., iPad, Pollard said that among his goals was to “develop a base of industry” for the school, “so that revenue can supplement our tuition revenue. Towards that end, he said local business leaders will form an advisory board to help guide such projects and lend their expertise.
HUNTSVILLE’S OWN: Mayor Tommy Battle congratulated Pollard on his new role: “As you write those pages of history, be bold. Write bold pages of history that talk about achievement, inclusiveness and progress,” the Huntsville mayor said.
Also, the school is “challenged with the reality of under-utilized and under-engaged alumni,” he said. “More needs to be done so the school can effectively market the ‘Oakwood Experience’ to prospective students.” He said that experience is “is a passionately spiritual experience” as well as a “communal experience. … It is communal, it is collectivistic, not individualistic.” Pollard asserted education at Oakwood is also “a rhythmically musical experience,” and one that is “parental,” in that parents who entrust their children to the school want to know about those children’s progress. “And you’d better know how those kids are doing,” he said. According to his official biography, on the University’s website, Pollard “earned a B.A. degree from Oakwood University (in 1978), and an M.Div. degree from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. He earned the D.Min. degree in Preaching and Worship from Claremont School of Theology. Seeking higher-level fiscal and administrative development, Pollard earned an M.B.A. degree in Organizational Management from the La Sierra University School of Business. He also graduated from Andrews University with a Ph.D. degree in New Testament Language and Literature, with specialization in apocalyptic literature.” Subsequently, the Oakwood president’s “32 years of leadership reflect local, national, and international service. He has served as senior pastor, a youth pastor, a university chaplain, a health-care program administrator, and an educational administrator at LLU. As a clergyman, Pollard has functioned as an evangelist, professor, ministerial educator, and leadership development facilitator to the General Conference family.” He also was a columnist and regular contributor to Adventist Review magazine.
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